Alex, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, Oklahoma

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The Alex School

From the Alex Tribune, March 7, 1913: You are hereby notified that under the laws of Oklahoma, you are required to send to school all children under your charge between the ages of 8 and 16 years twelve weeks during the school year. If you are not complying with the law in this manner, you will please proceed to do so...

Much of the following information was taken as written from the Grady County Schools Annual 1923, as included in Christine Peters' 2000 compilation, Alex: A Brief History of the School, Class Members and Graduations; The People of Alex: Past and Present. Information from the Annual has been edited for modern syntax only.

Clickable key words for this article: Christine Peters, first Alex School, second Alex School, Community House School (third Alex School), Hilltop Alex School (fourth Alex School), 1911 Alex students, Alex School at its present location (fifth Alex School), 1919-1920 High School enrollment, 1922 total enrollment, first seniors, early "Domestic Science" department, early Agriculture department, early athletics

The first school taught in the vicinity of Alex was held in a small house in the yard of BJ Vaughn (the Vaughn house is Vaughn Houseshown in the photo to the right), who lived three miles northwest of the town of Alex (the current location of the home of former Alex Principal Tim Persinger). Vaughn maintained this school for fourteen years for the benefit of his own boys and the children of his neighbors who cared to attend. One of the school's early teachers was reportedly Nettie Thompson of Ninnekah. Miss Georgia Neeley taught at the Vaughn School during its last five years. Neeley married A. Horton, a County Weigher, of Chickasha. The Vaughn house, also known as "Four Chimneys" is shown below.

Alex's second school was located on the farm of Charles Jeffries, near the Vaughan school. This school was taught in the 1902-03 year by a Miss Thompson. At this time there were no school districts and Indian Territory did not finanace schools or offer schooling. Each pupil paid $3.00 per month for the privilege of attending school, some traveling many miles to reach it.

So great was the desire for even a little learning that, before another year had passed, citizens organized and built a Community House in the Town of Alex. This building was located on the lot then occupied by the home of M.O. Foster. Religious services, political meetings, socials, and school were held in this community building. Schooling was funded as before, each child now paying only $1.50 month rather than $3.00. The patrons of this school furnished the lumber and made the scliool furniture themselves. Alex's first town school was taught in 1903-04 by a Mr. Bass. Mrs. C.J. Yaylor followed him in 1904 through 1906, when Mrs. Coghill assumed the teaching duties. The school required two teachers, Miss Holder and Miss Ingrain, during the 1907-08 school year.

Alex SchoolMoney was appropriated in 1907 for school purposes and better seats were purchased. For the first time, Alex School was official and authorized, causing town residents to realize the need for a better and larger building and other school facilities. Subsequently, a site was purchased on the south side of town, on the crest of the hill overlooking Alex's business district and commanding a beautiful view of tlie surrounding country. A two-story brick building (shown left, designated with an arrow) with six rooms and a spacious basement was erected. (The Hilltop Alex School was located is the middle of what is now the south end of Main Street, directly between the Main Street Church of Christ and the Longhorn Express.)

Hilltop SchoolThis new school building (shown right - in July 2013, the Grady County Historical Society allowed a copy to be made of this photo of the Alex Hilltop School, likely taken by Chickasha photographer George Norvelle in 1909) was thought at the time to be sufficient for many years to come and Alex residents settled back in complacent satisfaction, believing they had provided for tlie community's future educational needs. Tlie first superintendent of the new school was a Mr. Cooley, who served from 1908-1909. Other superintendents followed as noted: Mr. Burns, 1909-1911; Mr. Hampton, 1911-1912; Mr. Morgan, 1912-1914; J. C. Weaver, 1914-1916; Sidney Hancock, 1916-17 (Hancock began the 1917-1918 school year as superintendent of Alex School but resigned to join the War effort). Mrs. E.M. Murdock finished Hancock's term as superintendent.

Alex School 1912

The picture to the left was found among some Alex memorabilia donated to the Grady County Historical Society by the family of Leslie Alexander. The photo is a postcard that was mailed in Alex in January 1912. It depicts Alex students gathered outside the Hilltop Alex School in 1911 or before.

By 1917, enrollment in the Alex school district had reached the school building's allowed capacity. The school's good reputation had attracted many people to the area for their children's sake. Alex was growing and the need for a larger and better school building was apparent and urgent. As if to hasten this need, the old school building was badly damaged by a tornado in 1917 and condemned for school purposes in 1918, making a new building a necessity.

The National Weather Service's historical records state that a tornado hit Pocasset in Grady County on 08-05-1917. Although no mention is made of Alex in association with this storm, it is likely that significant damage was inflicted to the Alex and its school around the same time. On March 8, 1918, the Alex Tribune reported the following: SCHOOL BUILDING UNSAFE, VACATED. For some time parents have felt anxiety regarding the school building and, consequently, many stopped their children from school. The board of education secured Mr. Mackley, an architect from Chickasha, to...make a through test of the building. Results from the test determined that the building is unsafe and recommended that it be vacated immediately. He said it might stand many years, but it was liable to collapse at any time and the hazard was too great to risk.

Hilltop SchoolIt has been known that additional room has been needed. The patrons have voted to build a new school. The plans called for a one-story structure with eight classrooms, halls and an auditorium with seating capacity of 400 people and similar in appearance to the junior high at Chickasha. Mr. Mackley stated that the cost for such a building would be about $30,000 but the old building would reduce the amount and a bond for $25,000 would cover the cost. He advised securing a new location, as he believed it would cost more to prepare the ground on the present site than a new location would cost and the present site would never have grown shrubbery on account of the rough rock formation. He also stated material was high and labor scare but he expected no better conditions during the war or for some time afterward and suggested that the work begin immediately in order to have the building completed by the fall term of school.

The Alex Tribune reported on July 19, 1918 that work had begun to tear down the old school building at the first of the week. As the new school was planned, classes during the 1918-1919 school year were held at different churches, the grades distributed according to available space.. The superintendent during this interim was a Mr. Pleasant. The new Alex School was completed in 1918. It was located on the east side of town near the business district, was constructed of brick and heated with steam. The new school boasted four classrooms and an auditorium that was also used for classes. Two hundred students were enrolled and local churches continued to be used to hold classes. Mr. Pleasant resigned and tlie term was finished by Mr. Hancock, who had returned from military service. Mrs. Mary Vaughan was principal.

In 1919-1920, Alex High School was accredited for twelve units, enrollment was 32, the superintendent was Mr. Jesse and the principal was Mrs. Vaughan. A new "modern wing" of four rooms was added to the school's physical plant to accomodate a total enrollment of 320 students.

By 1922, the total enrollment was 354 students. During school terms from 1920 until 1923, OE Ooley assumed the duties of superintendent while Mary Vaughn continued as principal. At the beginning of the 1922-1923 term, enrollment at Alex High School was 72 and the school was accredited for 15 1/2 credits.

The first seniors in the history of Alex High School graduated in 1923. By 1923, Alex School was staffed by eight teachers, not including a music teacher who had her own classroom, a "beautiful music room with proper instruments." The school had grown to eight rooms and was crowded to "legal capacity."

According to 1923 description of Alex School, the Domestic Science equipment in use at the time was among the best in the county and the Domestic Science Department had attracted a great deal of attention and favorable comment and was working in conjunction with the Alex Women's Community Club to render a valuable service to the entire community.

The school's Agriculture Department tried to be of practical value to local farmers and had garnered the cooperation of the cotton buyers, elevator men and stock raisers. "Competent men" in the community gave Instruction regarding cotton grading and standards, cotton marketing, stock judging and other activities of local benefit.

Alex School athletics were "handicapped" in 1923 by a lack of funds and no gymnasium, although the Alex boys basketball team had played "some rather fast games" and were noted for their sportsmanship. The boys were "infected with football fever and organized the first football team that year and had a "fast. furious, though generally disappointing, season."

By 1923, the Alex School district was lacking only funds. Two additional teachers were needed as were more classrooms and a gymnasium so the "boys" could compete with others on an "equal basis." Students were available to attend the school, which simply did not "have the room for them." Alex had to cancel the fourth year of high school in 1923 due to a "lack of room." The school was growing too fast and had "very little hope" for expansion at the time but the Alex community was whole-heartedly loyal and co-operative toward the school and was confidently and expectantly looking forward to the great day when school funding was available, sufficient to enable the Alex School to assume its "proper position among the better institutions of learning and practical usefulness" in the area. Alex School patrons were anxiously awaiting the time when their children might have "equal chances with those of more fortunate districts."

During this time, Alex School janitor, John Mills, was noted to be the "best in the county by official decree." The writer of the 1923 description of Alex School noted, "So here's for Alex: A past of achievement, but a future of greater achievements."